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Biochem Pharmacol. 2008 Oct 1;76(7):817-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2008.06.017. Epub 2008 Jul 3.

The pharmacology and molecular mechanisms underlying temperature regulation and torpor.

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Department of Biology, Williams College, Williamstown, MA 01267, USA.


The ability to enter a hypometabolic state upon restriction of caloric intake is pivotal for animal survival: balancing the energy budget in endotherms can be a real struggle when food is not available and/or the demand for heat production to maintain homeothermy becomes excessive. Bouts of torpor, characterized by metabolic rates well below a basal metabolic rate and core body temperatures that may be just a few degrees above the ambient temperature, are utilized among many organisms across the animal kingdom, including those that could be described as typical laboratory animals, like the mouse or hamster. Daily heterotherms, which are the focus of this commentary, enter shallow torpor bouts and do so usually under acute food shortage conditions and a relatively cool environment. Due to their small size, the body temperature of these animals is very responsive to food deprivation, pharmacological inhibition of metabolic rate, and cardiovascular depressants. This commentary examines recent developments concerning the neuroendocrine mechanisms in place that may mediate fasting-induced torpor in daily heterotherms. Further this commentary highlights pharmacological induction of hypothermia in small mammals.

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